European bison, though smaller than the American bison, are the largest living land mammal in Europe. They became extinct in the wild in 1927, hunted for their skins and as food.
The Aspinall Foundation is delighted to contribute to an exciting rewilding project, which is a fundamental step towards increasing the population of a species that no longer roamed free, and was on the brink of extinction even in captivity. On 23rd April 2014, six female captive-bred bison from Port Lympne Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park, Highland Wildlife Park (Inverness-shire) and Fota Wildlife Park (Cork) were transported to the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in Romania.
The translocation of the bison was made possible by a partnership between The Aspinall Foundation, the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park Administration, the European Bison breeding programme (EEP) and the European Wilderness Society. Since their release the six female bison have usually spent their summers on the grasslands and winters in the forest. They have often been seen with a bull that joined them a few years ago – but he tends to leave during the summer months.
Once again this summer we have seen the six female bison return to the grasslands, having spent the winter months in the forest. Also as appears to be their habit, the bull that joined them in winter has left them again. Male bison usually leave the females for most of the year, but he has left four of the group with a parting gift! Four calves have been seen with the herd, which has suddenly boosted the number to ten – an amazing achievement for this rewilding programme, and we are delighted.
We hope to bring you more news and images of the group very soon.